Mean Green Drop First Two Games Of Season
Lacy Gregory Combines For 10 RBI
MONROE, La. – Errors marred the North Texas softball team as they dropped the first two games of the 2018 season to Louisiana Monroe and Central Arkansas on Thursday night at the Mardi Gras Classic.
Lacy Gregory’s school-record eight RBI were not enough as the Mean Green dropped its season opener to ULM, 12-10. She went 4-for-4 with two doubles and two homeruns, breaking the previous record of seven, set by Kat Strunk against UTEP on May 2, 2015.
“For someone who came into the season with all the accolades and pressure on her, I think she handled it well all day today,” North Texas head coach Tracey Kee said. “She’s a pure hitter. When she’s dialed in, she’s a tough out. She didn’t put too much pressure on herself and controlled her controllables, and it resulted in a great day on her part.”
Paige Murray (1-0) earned the win after pitching 5.1 innings of relief, allowing five runs on seven hits. Maria Priest (0-1) suffered the loss, giving up nine runs on nine hits in two innings of work.
North Texas (0-1) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after Lacy Gregory doubled in her sister Lindsey for the first run of the season. The Warhawks responded with three runs in the bottom of the first, but the Mean Green erupted for four runs in the second, beginning with a solo blast from Hanna Rebar. In her second at-bat, Lacy Gregory hit another double to clear the bases with two outs.
ULM capitalized on a pair of North Texas errors in the bottom of the second to put up another trio of runs and take back the lead at 6-5. The Warhawks extended their lead to 8-5 on a bases loaded single from Sydney McKay that brought Priest’s outing to an end. With freshman Hope Trautwein on the mound, ULM scored on another error to go ahead 9-5.
“We talk about playing 21 outs and if you make six errors and give them 27, your chances of winning go down,” Kee said. “We drill defense so hard. We’ve executed so well. We’ve been known for our steady defense.”
The Warhawks scored three more runs in the fourth on a pair of RBI singles, and Lacy Gregory answered in the fifth with a solo shot to right-center to make it 12-6. After Sally Gastelo drove in a run in her first North Texas at-bat, Lacy Gregory sent a ball over the wall in left-center to cut the deficit to two in the sixth inning.
While the rally generated a lot of buzz in the dugout, it didn’t translate into the on-field play and the comeback fell short.
“We knew that game was going to be a hit fest,” Kee said. “I thought our dugout energy was great today. I thought we had more energy in the dugout than on the field. That’s something we’ve addressed and need to correct. No loss is a loss until the final out. When we figure that out, we’ll be dangerous.”
After a rocky start, Trautwein settled in down the stretch, finishing with three runs allowed on two hits over four innings. After ULM scored three runs in each of the first four innings, she held the Warhawks scoreless in the final two frames.
“It was important to get Maria and Hope in that game,” Kee said. “With freshman, as a coach, you want that first game over. You just want to get them on the mound. They were nervous and anxious. My goal was for them to split that first game, get them acclimated to the turf and get the first-game jitters over.”
In the final game of the day, North Texas dropped a heartbreaker to Central Arkansas, 5-4, on a walk-off sac fly. The Bears erased a two-run deficit in the final frame to pull out the win.
Rachel Haberman tossed three scoreless innings of relief, while allowing just one hit, to pick up the win. Priest (0-2) got the loss after giving up the winning runs in the final inning.
After the teams exchanged a run in the first two innings, Oakley Sizemore led off the bottom of the third with a triple and scored on a Morgan Felts single to give the Bears a 2-1 lead. Following a double down the right-field line, Trautwein handed the ball over to Priest, who retired seven of the next eight batters.
“Young pitchers are going to take time and we understand that,” Kee said. “Maria pitched well enough to win. When you look at it that way, we have to fix the other parts.”
The Mean Green (0-2) once again leveled the score in the fourth on a Rhylie Makawe RBI single and in the top of the fifth, Lacy Gregory continued her hot swinging with a two-run double to the right-center gap to regain the lead at 4-2.
Fielding mishaps peaked their ugly head out again in the final inning of the second game as UCA scored three runs to walk off in the bottom of the seventh. The Bears put four balls down in the infield, but North Texas couldn’t turn any of them into outs.
“When you put the ball in play, you force the opponent’s hand and good things can happen to you,” Kee said. “We’ve got to flip it around real fast. We play 56 games, so we can’t get too upset about these two losses. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
North Texas will conclude Mardi Gras Classic play against Tenn.-Martin at 1 p.m. Friday.
• Lacy Gregory finished the day 5-for-7 with three doubles, two homeruns and 10 RBI.
• The Mean Green have lost their last four season openers.
• Nicole Ochotnicki had a career-high three hits in game one against the Warhawks.
• Tomorrow, North Texas looks to avoid going 0-3 for the first time since 2005.